In a move reflecting the momentum of records management laws at the government level, the Australian province of Victoria has now addressed the issue of social media. Previously a gray area in terms of its compliance structure, the Public Records Office of Victoria (PROV) has sensibly made it clear that social media interactions must be treated equally to any other record. And, importantly, it addressed what social media accounts should be archived. PROV announced that “social media posts created or received by public officers in the course of their duties are public records and must be captured.”

Digging deeper

Requiring every public officer in Victoria to have his or her social media interactions archived, this decree represents a logical response to the proliferation of social media as a means of communication among public officers as well as with the public. But PROV’s announcement did not end with a simple mandate. In its measured announcement, it also outlined what should be archived and how the records should be archived. In a necessarily broad statement, PROV reiterated that “any record made or received by a public office in the course of [their] duties” regardless of the medium, account name, or the seniority of the public officer must be archived.

Furthermore, PROV described how these records should be archived. PROV expects these records to be “captured as close to the point of creation as possible” because the risk of deleted posts increases with time. Also, PROV requires that the record must retain the structure, original content, and metadata of the social media interaction.

A sensible and robust policy

Ambitious as it is fully compliant with public recordkeeping laws, PROV’s announcement represents a model for local, state, and federal government records management strategies. There is little denying that social media is a public record, and just like email, it must be archived. Additionally, the PROV’s requirements about when and how the record must be archived is not only compliant, but plainly good recordkeeping practice. A record of social media should be archived before it is accidentally or intentionally erased, while preserving the record in its native format with the metadata intact provides valuable context for e-discovery and government-memory needs. Although this may seem like a tall order for some governments given the decentralized and dynamic nature of social media, tools such as ArchiveSocial are here to help.